GEORGE NEGUS: Gentlemen, thanks for your time.
Judge Goldstone, when you indicted Ratko Mladic in 1995 did you imagine that 10 years later he would still be on the loose?
JUSTICE RICHARD GOLDSTONE, FORMER WAR CRIMES PROSECUTOR: Absolutely not, I assumed completely in 1995 that the NATO forces would very promptly arrest Mladic and Karadzic who was indicted with him. I was quite surprised, indeed shocked, at the lack of political will at that time to pick them up and certainly it could have been done.
GEORGE NEGUS: You say it was a lack of political will. What do you mean? The suggestion now is that he is being protected and, in fact, your successor has suggested that the Serbian authorities are indeed protecting him and that is the reason for the delay. Is that what you mean by the lack of political will, or what?
JUSTICE RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, by lack of political will, certainly in 1995 what I was talking about was that the major NATO powers, and particularly the United States, but also supported by the major European powers, were simply not prepared to take the risk of retaliation and hostage-taking that they feared would follow in the wake of an arrest.
GEORGE NEGUS: Do you think that was the reason, or was there another one?
JUSTICE RICHARD GOLDSTONE: No, No, I think it was the reason. I don't think there was any political reason. I think the United States and the European powers and certainly the United States would have been very happy to have him on trial at the Hague, but they weren't prepared to put their soldiers at risk.
GEORGE NEGUS: Marcus, what do you think? Do you agree with Judge Goldstone? Why do you think he hasn't been picked up? Why do you think he hasn't handed himself over?
MARCUS TANNER, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well I would very much agree with the judge, really, that there was no will among the NATO powers in Bosnia and there was still this feeling that the outside world had to, somehow mollify and I think mollycoddle Serbia a little bit and I think that feeling persists to this day, actually.
Perhaps the Europeans are getting a bit tougher now, but it has taken a long time, I think, for people to apply the same tough standards to Serbia that they have applied to some other powers in the region.
GEORGE NEGUS: But Judge, this man, the crimes that he is alleged to have committed, the things that you indicted him for, are some of the most heinous things imaginable – rape, mass murder, humiliation, cultural humiliation I mean, why wouldn't the Serbian authorities immediately act with NATO and hand him over, grab him and hand him over? It seems like we are suggesting that the entire nation are genocidal?
JUSTICE RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well certainly at that time Serbia was very against the War Crimes Tribunal – they considered it an act of discrimination against Serbia. It was very unpopular with their government, they refused to recognise its legitimacy and they were not prepared to cooperate at all.
In addition, Mladic was a sort of national hero so it would have been very negative from a political point of view for them to do that. So it was all of those reasons Serbia certainly wasn't about to cooperate and certainly when Milosevic was head of state he would have done everything to protect Mladic.
GEORGE NEGUS: Marcus, what you think about that? Because you've been on the ground a lot in that part of the world, reporting Balkan politics.
MARCUS TANNER: I would just like to add that it is not just Milosevic. His successor, who is prime minister now, is a nationalist and we have to remember that.
He is a democrat. He is not a mass murderer, but he represents that mainstream opinion in Serbia which is still very sympathetic, I think, to the aims that inspired people like Mladic, not the murders but nevertheless to the idea of an expanded Serbian state.
These are nationalist people, they do not want and over what they see as their heroes and they may be considering it now but it is a very reluctant decision that they are making.
GEORGE NEGUS: It sounds like nationalism gone mad that you are describing though. We're talking about a person if he is guilty of mass murder.
MARCUS TANNER: Yes, but they don't accept that. Most people in Serbia simply don't accept that. Even if you go into a bar in Belgrade now, they will tell you that the massacre in Srebrenica was a lie. It was invented by other people.
GEORGE NEGUS: Is that right?
MARCUS TANNER: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I am not saying everyone in Belgrade will say that, but you will find, even in the capital, which is the most sophisticated place in Serbia, a lot of people will say that.
GEORGE NEGUS: Now this absurd cat-and-mouse game has been going on with both Ratko Mladic and Karadzic are we any closer to a solution? We keep hearing arrest dates and rumours and all sorts of things and now there is a new deadline of April 5th. What is going to happen? What you think is happening right now?
MARCUS TANNER: Is that one for me?
GEORGE NEGUS: Yes,
MARCUS TANNER: I think absolutely. I think things are moving finally, especially now that Croatia has been forced to hand over its last major war crimes indictee, General Gotavina, and I think that has spurred Serbia onto the realisation that there is actually no way out now and the other factor is that more and more people in Serbia do want to join the European Union and I think it is having an effect.
They actually do really want to join it now which they didn't when Judge Goldstone indicted Mladic 10 years ago. That is a big change in Serbia. And that is making people realise that they will have to pay a price – that they will have to hand these people over.
GEORGE NEGUS: Do you think his arrest is imminent?
MARCUS TANNER: I do think it will happen over the next month, yeah. I would be very surprised if it gets to the crunch point in early April when Serbia's application for a stability and association agreement with the EU comes up for its final stamp and I would be very surprised if Serbia has not handed Mladic over by then. They really will be courting trouble, which really seems I don't think that will happen.
GEORGE NEGUS: Well the EU spokesman has been suggesting that if they don't they can kiss goodbye to the whole idea of joining the EU, and the benefits that would come from that.
MARCUS TANNER: Exactly and they have realised that. I think that is taken on board now, but it's taken years for that to get through.
GEORGE NEGUS: Judge, that must anger you a lot. You indicted this man, obviously for good reasons, in most of the world's eyes, and now we find that he will only be handed over for what sound like politically pragmatic reasons rather than the reasons of justice.
JUSTICE RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, I think that one must accept that the whole endeavour of international justice is a very political sort of thing.
There are moral reasons, there are the victims, but, at the end of the day, it is political will and political motivations that make the system work or cause failure.
GEORGE NEGUS: What does that say, though, about the whole state of international law, that a country can flaunt it they can just thumb their nose, if you like, at your decision to indict this man, thumb their nose at the International War Crimes Tribunal etc.
JUSTICE RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well of course, in theory they can, but I think the tide has changed. I think the United States, certainly with regard to the International Criminal Court, is taking a very aberrational approach. Virtually all of the democracies, any democracies of importance that are not on board with the International Criminal Court are really the United States, Japan and India.
But you have the whole of the European Union, you've got all the democracies in the Commonwealth. You have 100 nations now fully supporting the International Criminal Court and that is a critical mass of countries. And it is certainly, I think, up to the democracies to point the way and to set the example.
GEORGE NEGUS: Marcus, the judge mentioned the US role in all of this. What of the stories coming out that the Americans have offered anything between €4 million and €11 million to Mladic's family and bodyguards etc. Is there any truth to that suggestion?
MARCUS TANNER: I find it very implausible, I really do. I think it would rebound horribly on the United States if it was found that he had been offered all of this money because obviously it would be seen like they were paying one of the world's worst war criminals a kind of huge slush fund for his defence. So I think it is slightly implausible.
There is no doubt, however, that the Serbian Government will be negotiating that money, because they have done that in the past with other indictees. They have to promise to pay for there families and for top lawyers and all that stuff in order to get these guys to surrender voluntarily. So I don't doubt that there is someone negotiating money but whether it is the US is another question.
GEORGE NEGUS: In the meantime, arrest dates have come and gone, handover have come and gone and you are convinced that he will be arrested and handed over by April 5th?
MARCUS TANNER: Convinced is probably slightly strong, but I think this is much more likely to be a real date because I think the Serbian Government does want this treaty, this agreement with Europe. I think they really do want it and they know that it is dead in the water in April if nothing has happened on the Mladic front.
GEORGE NEGUS: Judge, if that happens, if, as Marcus suggests that he is handed over on April 5th or before it, what then? How do we go about prosecuting your indictment? What happens to Mladic after that?
JUSTICE RICHARD GOLDSTONE: I think Mladic would appear in the Hague. Under the rules of the Tribunal he will be handed all of the documents relevant to the case, both inculpatory, and, if there are any, exculpatory. He will obviously need time to prepare his defence.
It could go two ways – he could follow the example of Milosevic and refuse counsel. I hope that the judges have learned from some of the mistakes I think they made in being too lenient with Milosevic. I would hate to see another repetition of a two-year period to prevent a prosecution case.
There is a very strong case against Mladic, not only the evidence that was collected when I was there, but a lot of evidence has been collected since. I am not privy to it, but I have no doubt, following some of the evidence in the Milosevic trial, much of it would be relevant to Mladic and especially with regard to what happened during the massacre of over 8000 innocent men and boys at Srebrenica.
GEORGE NEGUS: Milosevic, of course, has played the court. It has been a long drawn-out affair that is still inconclusive. Is the same sort of thing going to happen with Mladic – becomes a have a farce?
JUSTICE RICHARD GOLDSTONE: I certainly hope not and I don't expect so. As I say, I think mistakes were made and I have little doubt that the lessons will be learned.
GEORGE NEGUS: Thanks very much judge and thanks very much Marcus for your time as well.